Rice Farmers forced out of Japan by high levels of reactor fallout. Fukushima rice to be grown in Australia


ABC National News.

Fukushima rice crop grown in Queensland

Charlie McKillop reported this story on Thursday, May 24, 2012 12:46:00

ELEANOR HALL: The successful harvest of a small plot of rice in North Queensland is raising the hopes of some of Japan’s nuclear affected farmers.

The harvest is part of a trial backed by the Townsville Sister City forum and the Queensland Government to grow traditional Japanese rice to export to farmers in Japan whose land is so contaminated that it won’t support edible crops for centuries.

Charlie McKillop reports from the Burdekin.

(Sound of rice being harvested)

TAKEMI SHIRADO: Oh, very hard work.

CHARLIE MCKILLOP: It’s the first time a traditional Japanese rice variety has been successfully grown in Australia.

The Burdekin is already Australia’s northern food bowl and now the success of this small rice growing trial has raised hopes it could become a lifeline to displaced farmers in nuclear affected Fukushima prefecture.

The contrast could not have been more stark as the traditional crop was harvested by hand by the project director, Takemi Shirado.

TAKEMI SHIRADO: We have a problem with high radiation contamination so the farmers, especially farmers lost their land, hope, dream and the future. Here in Ayr, Burdekin, if we make rice instead we can supply the food for the Fukushima people. They still eating provision contamination food. It is no good at all.

CHARLIE MCKILLOP: So, given the social and economic dislocation, what could this tiny plot of rice tens of thousands of kilometres away possibly mean to the people of Iwaki?

Susan Roberts is a driving force of the Townsville Sister City forum. She’s been working closely with sister cities in Japan for 22 years.

SUSAN ROBERTS: Eventually the soil, they say it is going to be 40 years but eventually the soil will go back to being non-radioactive and there are vast amounts of money already being spent to clean the soil and reactivate it for various crops. So if we can get those rice farmers involved in a traditional form of enterprise and they are busy making their own money down here in the Burdekin and sharing it with Fukushima consumers, then I think it would be a very positive strike for them and also for the kind of relations that have been enabled by our sister city exchanges.

CHARLIE MCKILLOP: The Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has also backed the trial.

The department’s Gareth Jones says the project is still a long way from commercialisation but it’s promising.

GARETH JONES: First thing is you can grow kochi rice here in Australia and that the rice grows well, it grows quickly. His hope is that we can get multiple crops per year here in the Burdekin and so that all goes well to looking towards some sort of commercial development down the track.

I think it solves not just sceptics in Japan but also here in Australia. When we first came down and saw Mr Shirado’s first paddy not really holding water, a lot of us doubting that the soil here on the Burdekin Delta would actually hold water, to see that actually happen. To come down later and watch the crop growing and now seeding, it silenced a lot of critics.

CHARLIE MCKILLOP: For the time being at least, the proof will be in the eating as the kochi rice undergoes rigorous testing.

GARETH JONES: It will all depend on the quality of this rice, how they appreciate it back in Japan. If that gets a green light I’m sure Mr Shirado will be back and we’ll be taking this 10 kilos of seed and turning it into a tonne of seed and from there 10 tonnes and hopefully get to a stage where we might be able to get some commercial interest to grow this crop and the next dimension to that of course is the marketing and to be able to get rice into Japan, there may still be some obstacles for us growing Australian rice and actually exporting it into Japan but again, we just need to take each step as it comes I think.

ELEANOR HALL: That’s Queensland regional agribusiness development manager, Gareth Jones ending that report by Charlie McKillop at the harvest of Australia’s first crop of kochi rice variety at the Ayr Research Station.

One Response to “Rice Farmers forced out of Japan by high levels of reactor fallout. Fukushima rice to be grown in Australia”

  1. CaptD Says:

    This is just the beginning of Japan “Flight” which will see huge numbers of Japanese start relocating because of the radioactive pollution caused by Fukushima…

    I expect to see the Japanese start to buy and or lease farmland in many Countries in order to relocate the 100,000 + people that can never return to their land because of radioactivity!

    Liked and Tweeted…

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